Did Rome Have Walls Around the City?

By Anna Duncan

Did Rome Have Walls Around the City?

Rome, the ancient capital of the Roman Empire, is a city steeped in history and intrigue. One of the questions that often arises when discussing Rome’s architecture is whether or not the city had walls to protect it. Let’s dive into this topic and explore the fascinating world of Roman defenses.

The Need for Walls

Throughout history, cities have built walls as a means to protect their inhabitants from external threats. Walls were an essential element of defense, providing a physical barrier against attacks from enemies. They also served as a symbol of power and prestige for cities.

In ancient times, Rome faced numerous military threats from neighboring civilizations such as the Gauls and Carthaginians. As a result, it became imperative for Rome to fortify its borders and protect its citizens.

The Servian Wall

The first significant wall built around Rome was known as the Servian Wall. Constructed during the 4th century BCE, this wall was named after King Servius Tullius who ordered its construction.

This early fortification was made of tufa stone and extended for approximately 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) around Rome’s urban area. The Servian Wall featured several gates or “portae,” which served as entry points into the city.

  • The Porta Capena: Located on the southern side of Rome, this gate connected Rome with important roads leading to Campania and Apulia.
  • The Porta Esquilina: Situated in the northeastern part of Rome, this gate linked the city with various towns along Via Labicana.
  • The Porta Collina: Positioned on the northern side of Rome, this gate provided access to Via Salaria, an ancient road leading to the salt-producing region.

These gates were crucial for trade, commerce, and communication, making them significant entry points in and out of the city.

The Aurelian Walls

While the Servian Wall served as a formidable defense for several centuries, Rome’s expansion necessitated new fortifications. Thus, the Aurelian Walls were constructed during the 3rd century CE under Emperor Aurelian’s reign.

The Aurelian Walls were made of brick and stretched over 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) around Rome. These walls enclosed a much larger area than the Servian Wall and incorporated seven major gates or “portae.”

  • The Porta Asinaria: Located in the southeastern part of Rome, this gate was an important entrance point along Via Tuscolana.
  • The Porta San Giovanni: Situated near the Basilica of St. John Lateran, this gate connected Rome with important roads leading to central Italy.
  • The Porta Appia: Positioned on Via Appia, one of ancient Rome’s most important roads, this gate facilitated trade and communication with southern Italy.

The Aurelian Walls were a testament to Rome’s military might and engineering prowess. They stood as a prominent symbol of the city’s grandeur and strength.

Beyond Walls: Defense Strategies

Rome’s defense strategies extended beyond just walls. The city employed various other techniques to safeguard its borders and citizens. These included moats, watchtowers, fortresses, and even strategic alliances with neighboring tribes or states.

It is essential to note that while walls provided a layer of defense, they were not foolproof. Rome faced numerous invasions throughout its history, and the walls were breached on multiple occasions.

The Legacy of Roman Walls

The construction of walls around Rome is a testament to the city’s military and architectural achievements. These walls not only provided physical protection but also shaped the urban layout and served as a tangible reminder of Rome’s grandeur.

Today, remnants of the Servian Wall and Aurelian Walls can still be seen in certain parts of Rome, offering glimpses into the ancient city’s past.

In Conclusion

Rome did indeed have walls around the city. The Servian Wall and later the Aurelian Walls were monumental structures that protected the city from external threats and left an indelible mark on its history. These walls stand as a testament to the ingenuity and military prowess of ancient Rome, showcasing their dedication to protecting their citizens and preserving their way of life.